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15 Body Language Mistakes You Make During Job Interviews

The majority of our communication comes from body language. Here's how to avoid sending the wrong message—and sabotaging your job offer.

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Using a weak handshake

A weak handshake will signal lack of confidence, but a too-strong handshake could be interpreted as an attempt at domination. Your handshake should be firm but not bone-crushing. Here are tricks to boost your confidence before a big interview.

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Avoiding eye contact

Eye contact is super-important when you’re engaging with potential employers. People who avoid eye contact or have shifty eye movements come across as suspicious or even creepy, says Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. “Looking down as you talk makes it seem like you lack confidence or are self-conscious,” adds Bradberry, “causing your words to lose their effect.” Avoid glancing at the clock, which implies disinterest and can be interpreted as disrespectful.

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Holding eye contact for too long

Eye contact is important to convey a sense of confidence and ability, but holding contact for long periods without breaking will hurt you too. Prolonged, forceful eye contact can be interpreted as aggressive. Break eye contact every seven to 10 seconds when you’re interviewing. According to Bradberry, “The way we break contact sends a message, too. Glancing down communicates submission, while looking to the side projects confidence.”

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Using exaggerated gestures

Enthusiastically sweeping your arms or using intense pointing gestures can be unsettling because it comes across as chaotic and hectic, which aren’t qualities interviewers look for in prospective employees. Wild gestures can also be seen as overcompensation for a speaker that is stretching the truth. Make small, simple gestures to convey openness and honesty, which will inspire confidence and make you seem smarter.

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Putting hands behind your back or in pockets

Sticking your hands behind your back or in your pockets can hurt you during an interview because it can hinder movement, making you seem stiff and unapproachable. Additionally, it may give the impression that you are being dishonest with your interviewer, as people often try to take up less space and seem smaller when they are lying. Or, interviewers may think you’re trying to hide fidgety hands, which are another tell that someone is fibbing. Here are surefire ways to spot a liar.

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Forgetting to smile

Don’t get so caught up in appearing interested or wanting to be taken seriously that you forget to smile. While frowning and scowling can signal displeasure or judgment, smiling can invoke positive feelings from the interviewer and help create a good lasting impression.

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Slouching signals a lack of respect and enthusiasm, and can also imply disinterest and make you seem smaller. Because people often associate power with the amount of space occupy, good posture will help you seem more powerful and command respect. According to businessinsider.com, sitting up straight “maximizes the amount of space you fill and so denotes control and assertion.” Try these tips to improve your posture.

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Crossing your arms

Crossing your arms, and even your legs, can make you seem less accessible and communicative in an interview because it creates a physical barrier between you and the interviewer. This gesture can also make you seem defensive or narrow-minded. To avoid coming across as closed off, avoid crossing and rest your hands at your sides or in your lap.

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Try to resist the impulse to fidget, which can often happen when you’re nervous. Fidgeting implies a lack of confidence, or can be perceived as a sign of disinterest and boredom.

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Disregarding personal space

Keep a respectful distance of at least a foot and a half from your interviewer to prevent feelings of discomfort and avoid giving the impression you have low social awareness. Additionally, invading personal space implies you have little respect for personal boundaries, which can be problematic and upsetting in a work environment. The ideal amount of space to keep is between three and eight feet. You should also never touch your interviewer, except to shake his or her hand.

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Turning away

Avoid coming across as disengaged and uncomfortable by angling your body toward the interviewer. You can also signal attentiveness by leaning slightly forward and tilting your head slightly as he or she speaks.

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When your facial expressions do not match your words, you give the impression you are not trustworthy and may unsettle your interviewer. Make sure your face appropriately reflects the conversation, and adjust it based on the severity of the topic.

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iStock/Lisa Valder

Clenching your fists

Keep your hands relaxed, open, and visible. Clenching your fists makes you seem closed off and defensive. Also, it can make you argumentative, as you will appear ready to spring into action at any moment.

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Touching your face or hair

Touching your face, and especially your nose, can make you seem dishonest and insincere. Playing with your hair may signal stress or can connote a lack of maturity.

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Playing with your pen or papers

Fiddling with a pen or shuffling your papers may lead interviewers to view you as anxious and unprepared. Try to keep your hands still, and avoid playing with surrounding objects.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest